Like so many things, baking has trends and fashions, crazes that take over in a big way - such as the current international taste for cupcakes (or fairy cakes if you prefer). In recent years, macaroons (or macarons to the Parisians) have resurfaced in a big way, something about the bright colours, versatile flavours and fillings and super sweetness has made them not only a culinary delight for bakers, but a fashionable home-made gift.
My interest peaked, as it so often does, by watching endless cookery shows, and reading countless blogs, all of which told me in no uncertain terms that these tasty little treats were horrendously difficult to master, making them the holy grail of baking. For those of you that know me well, this translates directly into a challenge of the highest order... I mean seriously... how hard can they be? ! ?
So I googled. I read. I compared several recipes, and marvelled at how much they varied. Eventually I found one that seemed fairly easy to master, and more importantly I had the ingredients for in the house, and got to work. I'm proud to say that, aside from a sight spacing issue when piping the shells that caused a few mutated double shells, batch one came out pretty damn good! Coloured a pale peach, sweet and almondy, and the correct texture, I sandwiched them with a chocolate buttercream, and smugly presented them to Gary...
The reaction I received was not quite the one I had hoped for, when Gary turned to me and asked "oh, I thought they were supposed to have coconut in them?" Of course, I thought, those are called macaroons as well! So I turned to trusty google, to find out the difference. In essence, the macaroon has existed since the 1500's in various guises, the original being the almond shell version above, and has been adapted over time by various cultures into various different confections, the staple being the meringue base.
Just to compare, I made a second batch last night of the coconut version, which were equally sweet and delicious.
And so I blog tonight slightly more educated in the history of the macaroon, and a little more pleased with myself for completing the challenge of making my first batch, with big plans for new colours and flavours swirling in my mind's eye... watch this space!